When David Herrick receives an invitation to a reunion in one of England's most haunted houses, his first reaction is to refuse. After all, he hasn't seen Jenny, Peter or the others since they were all a part of the same youth group two decades ago. Moreover, he isn't feeling very sociable since his wife Jessica died six month ago. In face, he's still rather raw and numb.
But the invitation comes from Angela, one of his wife's oldest friends, and, mysteriously, she has something for him from his beloved Jessical. Reluctant but curious, he makes his plans to visit Headly Manor.
When the friends gather, they no longer resemble the fresh-faced group of twenty years ago. One has been deserted by her husband, another has lost his faith and another is filled with anger and bile. Life hasn't been the sugar-coated existence they might have hoped for.
As they have less than forty-eight hours with each other, they decide to be vulnerable and share their greatest fearsa suitable exercise, given their ghostly venue. But will they have the courage to bare their souls? And if they do, how will such revelations be received?
This poignant, moving and sometimes disturbing story blends Adrian Plass's rich style of humour with his knack for addressing the deep issues we all face, such as faith, grief, love, fearand most crippling of all afflictions, the fear of fear.
Author Biography: Adrian Plass is one of the most significant and successful Christian authors today and has written over twenty books. Known for his ability to evoke both tears and laughter for a purpose, he has been reaching the hearts of thousands for over fifteen years. He lives in Sussex with his wife Bridget and continues to be a cricket fanatic.
|Product dimensions:||6.59(w) x 9.02(h) x 1.39(d)|
|Age Range:||16 Years|
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GhostsThe Story of a Reunion
By Adrian Plass
ZondervanCopyright © 2003 Zondervan
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI seem to wake.
My bedroom is in darkness, the rectangle of my curtainless window less black only by a margin of the deepest shade of gray. I am lying on my back and remain in that position as if paralyzed, my eyes wide open, flicking from side to side as I listen intently. My anxiety is to establish urgently the absence of sounds that would be out of place in a safe, secure house at night. In fact, the loudest sound is my own panic-stricken breathing. I fancy, in addition, that I can hear my heart throbbing and hammering against the wall of my chest. It is as though, in that crucial instant before waking, I have received an overwhelming, crushing shock.
I remember! Of course I remember.
The noise that destroyed my sleep was a thunderous knocking and crashing on the top and bottom of my bed-room door, a veritable rain of blows, catapulting me into consciousness with brutal, wrenching abruptness.
But-and here is the crucial question-this wild knocking, did it happen in my sleep? Was it the final instant or climax of a dream? That is possible. I have known such things before.
Could there actually be, at this very moment, a person or persons standing outside my door, waiting for me to climb from the shelter of my bed to discover the cause of such inexplicable urgency?
No, that idea is foolish and illogical. If there is a man or men who have somehow forced the locks of a door in my house and made their way up my stairs, why should they take the time and trouble to hammer on my unlocked bedroom door with such grotesque violence?
If their intention was originally robbery or murder, am I seriously to believe that, in the course of a short journey from the top of the stairs to this side of the landing, they have, by some obscure process, been so infected with courtesy that they now feel obliged to warn me of their presence?
On the other hand, if, unfathomably, their motive is an innocent one, why do they not simply come into my room and disclose the nature of the emergency that has made it necessary for them to break into my home and disturb my sleep?
No, no, the outrageous knocking was a dream. It was the end of a nightmare. I know it was. In the past I have safely woken from so many nightmares. Actually, I have woken from every single nightmare that I have ever endured. For all my life.
All but one.
But I have certainly woken from this nightmare of meaningless knocking, and now I shall go back to sleep. In fact, that is my plan for dealing with the situation. I shall go back to sleep. I shall close my eyes and simply drift back into sleep. Suddenly it will be morning.
I close my eyes and wait for sleep to come.
I cannot sleep until I have opened that door. The mindless battering and kicking on the wooden panels that woke me just now was certainly nothing more than a nightmare. However, the fact remains that I cannot sleep until I have opened that door. There will be no one there, of course. There is never anyone there. But it is necessary for the sake of my peace that I should pull that door open, look carefully round it, and see with my own two eyes that the landing is empty and clear of intruders. After that sleep will come. Yes, after that sleep will come easily.
I push back my bedclothes. I swing my feet to the floor.
I stand and begin to feel my way carefully through the pitch darkness toward the door. I am halfway there when a cold shiver of realization passes through me. What can I have been thinking of? My bedroom at night is never this dark. The world outside my window is never as opaque as it appears now. The window is, in any case, in the wrong place. I was mistaken. This is not my bedroom. I am not awake. I never did wake. I dreamed that I slept. I dreamed that I woke. Dear God! I thought that I was awake, but I am in a nightmare. And now I am to be driven onward by that nightmare. There is no longer a choice between continuing across this alien room and returning to the bed that I naïvely believed to be mine. Opening that door and confronting whatever may lie behind it is my inescapable assignment. I am close to tears at the prospect of some shrieking abyss of insanity on the other side, and I am right to be petrified. The logic of nightmare interlocks as tightly as the logic of the waking world, but the one is as far removed from the other as hope is removed from despair.
I am at the door. There will be nothing. I place my hand on the handle. There will be nothing. I push the handle down. There will be nothing. I pull open the door. Oh! A scream rises in my throat like vomit but does not emerge. It is like choking on terror. There is something. Two figures are silhouetted within the frame of the door, nearly filling the space. One is large and shambling, slightly bent over, the other smaller. I peer at them but cannot make out the features of either. They do not speak. They do not move. Why, in God's name, do they say and do nothing? It is as if they know that by remaining silent and motionless they will bring me to the sharpest, uppermost pinnacle of this shrieking spiral of fear.
I say, my voice contained within a thin, parchment-like skin of self-control, "Yes, can I help you? Did you want something?"
I cannot see their mouths, but I know that they are grinning horribly in the darkness now. They are amused by the groveling terror that makes me say stupid, polite things to people who have callously broken into my house and smashed their fists and feet against my door. They have won. Again. Yet again I perceive that I am what I am. I am so full of trembling hysteria that I fear my spirit will unravel or disintegrate.
My sole advantage is the certain knowledge that this is a dream. I may have learned the truth in time. I am not awake. This is a dream. I can escape. There is a way of escape. Surely nightmare is not permitted to break its own rules.
As the larger figure makes a sudden slight movement in my direction, I close my eyes and allow everything that I am to fall back onto the smooth, yielding darkness behind me. Releasing body and mind, I slide at ever-increasing speed down the long, steep slopes of a strangely exhilarating descent into abandonment.
In a final rush of excitement and dread I collide soundlessly with the real world, perspiring and trembling, awake in my own bed, my heart filled with a dark emotion that is much less and much more than the fear of nightmare.
* * *
There is an old schoolboy joke that goes, "How do you know when an elephant's been in your fridge?" The answer is, "You can tell by the footprints in the butter."
Losing someone you have loved and lived with carries echoes of that silly joke. The one who was half of your existence is gone but, between them-the vastness of her life, and the elephantine, Jurassic creature called Death-leave paradoxically tiny marks or footprints all over your house, your heart, and your life. For a long time these marks of passing are to be found everywhere, every day. Each new discovery is likely to trigger a fresh outburst of grief.
Some of them really are in the fridge. On the bottom shelf stands a carton of skim milk, a small aspect of the scheme that she devised to make sure of losing a few pounds before going on our planned sunshine holiday in late summer. She bought it on the morning of the day before she was taken ill. The carton should have been thrown out a long time ago, but the dustbin outside my back door is somehow not large or appropriate enough to contain the implications of such an action.
Upstairs, on the table next to her side of the bed sprawls an untidy pile of books that she has been devouring, dip-ping into, hoping to read. One of them was about pregnancy and childbirth. This was to have been the year . . .
Beside the books stands a tumbler, nearly filled with water.
The books should be returned to the bookcase, but the exact order and positioning of them on the bedside table, the sheer disarray of them, is a unique product of her hands, of her attention and her inattention, and will be lost forever as soon as they are moved or removed.
Her lips were still warm when they touched the cold, hard smoothness of that glass as she sipped from it. The amount of water that remains was precisely determined by the extent of her thirst.
She has no choice now but to give up exactness and inexactness.
These tiny museums of personal randomness are all that is left to me.
How many times and in how many ways is it expected that one should have to say good-bye? I assent and assent and assent and assent to the death of the person I love, yet still she phantoms to life and fades once more to her death in the sad ordinariness of an unfinished packet of cereal, a tube of the wrong-colored shoe polish, a spare pair of one-armed reading glasses in a drawer, CDs I never would have learned to enjoy, the Bible that is not mine, its thou-sand pages thickly cropped with markers that were sown over a decade, but have yielded their harvest in another place, her sewing box filled with "bits and bobs that might be useful one day," familiar doodles on a pad beside the phone, and, buried behind coats hanging in the hall, a wide, dark-blue woolen scarf that, when I bury my face in it, still smells of her.
* * *
I disposed of such items as the milk carton eventually. Of course I did. There was never any serious danger that I would descend into some kind of Dickensian preservation mania. The books were returned to their correct position on the shelves. I tipped away the water and washed the invisible prints of Jessica's lips and fingers from the tumbler. It took about half a minute and meant nothing immediately afterward. I noted how the glass shone and sparkled as I replaced it with its fellows on the top shelf of the cup-board above the draining board. It was, after all, only a glass. Tomorrow I would be unable to identify which one of that set of six had contained the last drink that my wife had enjoyed in her own home.
In fact, after the very early and most intensely anguished days I became reasonably good at clearing and sorting and dealing with things of this kind as soon as they appeared, albeit sometimes by gritting my teeth or through little bursts of sobbing, conduits carrying away the overflow of continual grief.
The problem was that it never seemed quite to end. Months after Jessica's death I was still having to cope with less frequent but no less unexpected reminders of her life and her death. Some of them came from outside the house, brought by the regular postman, a young man with shiny spiked hair and a brick-red complexion who continued to whistle his way up our front path every morning as if, in some strange way, the world had not stopped turning. He brought letters addressed to Jessica that had important things to say about her mobile phone, or her library books, or which bulbs she might like to order for planting in the autumn, or the amount of credit she had on her British Home Stores card, or the fact that she had come so close to winning eighty thousand pounds in some magazine draw that the act of returning the enclosed slip and ordering a year's subscription to the magazine in question was little more than a tedious formality. I answered the ones I needed to and tossed the rest.
One or two were innocently cheerful communications from friends or acquaintances from the past who knew nothing of what had happened to Jessica. I replied with as much brevity as politeness would allow and tried to spend as little time as possible looking at the letters of condolence that followed.
One summer morning, six months to the day after I had leaned down to kiss my wife's cold lips for the last time, a letter with a Gloucester postmark dropped onto the front mat. It turned out to be from one of Jessica's oldest friends, but it was not for her. It was addressed to me.
Excerpted from Ghosts by Adrian Plass Copyright © 2003 by Zondervan
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.